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Darcy Sharpe ready for opportunity to join snowboard superstardom

Hitting the podium in Beijing would put the Whistler resident among elite company who have won both Olympic and X Games medals
Darcy Sharpe-Trevor Brown Jr.:ESPN
Whistler’s Darcy Sharpe celebrates his X Games gold medal in Aspen, Colo., on Jan. 25, 2020.

At just 13 years old, Comox, B.C.’s Darcy Sharpe made the move to Whistler to pursue his snowboard career in what he calls the “glory land of good terrain parks.”

While the five days a week on the mountain with the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club did wonders for the now 25-year-old first-time Olympian, moving away from home before even starting high school proved to be a challenging endeavour for the slopestyle rider.

Describing that first year away from home as a “lonely and difficult time” due to not being accustomed to the different lifestyle of his host family, snowboarding became an escape to normalcy for Sharpe.

And as his skills continued to grow exponentially, Sharpe won his first major event at 15 years old, when he bested all his peers on the Canadian National Team to snag the $15,000 grand prize at Monster Energy’s Shred Show in Whistler.

The years following that win were mired by injuries that included a broken pelvis, punctured lungs, broken ribs, and a concussion.

Then, in the first Olympic qualifying event of the 2017 season, a broken ankle effectively eliminated Sharpe’s chances of going to the PyeongChang Games the following year.

“That was pretty devastating,” he said. “I missed the year and couldn’t qualify for the Olympics when I felt like I could have, and should have been there, even though the team was pretty stacked. It was going to still be a battle, but I felt like I was riding pretty good and ready to do it.”

While watching those Games was, at times, depressing for Sharpe, one small silver lining was getting to watch his sister Cassie take home the gold for Canada in halfpipe skiing.

“I went into a pretty dark place when I was just hanging out in my room and pissed off and not wanting to do a whole lot, and feeling pretty bummed and super low … That was definitely a rough time,” he said.  “But when my sister’s event went, that was really a morale booster, for sure. It made me really happy and proud, so it wasn’t an all-bad Olympics.”

After recovering from his nagging injuries, Sharpe overcame the disappointment of missing the 2018 games to continue his ascension up the slopestyle mountain.

The 2020 season was one for the ages for Sharpe, as he took home three X Games medals (gold, silver and bronze) and a fourth-place finish at the US Open Championships.

With his chances of making the 2022 Olympic Games increasingly likely, disaster nearly struck, as another major injury, this time a torn ACL, took Sharpe out during the Olympic qualifying season once again.

Returning from that injury at the start of this season, Sharpe needed three good results in three events to qualify for the Games, putting him in the most pressure-filled situation he has faced so far as a professional.

“I can’t even describe [it] … I’ve never felt that much pressure in my life,” said Sharpe, about his Olympic dreams all coming down to needing one more good finish at the World Cup stop at Mammoth Mountain, Calif. earlier this month.

“Dropping into that run, I’ve never felt such bodily pressure before. I felt almost euphoric and lethargic and almost like stoned and psychedelic-y. The rail started to look different, my vision started to go a little blurry, and I was just tripping—and they were like, ‘OK, you’ve got to drop.’”

Sharpe rubbed his eyes and cleaned his lens, but his vision didn’t get any clearer.

“So I just dropped and landed my run, and that was another great feeling of relief,” he said. “It was a great reminder that I do know how to deal with substantial amounts of pressure. That got me through to finals and I got fourth, so that was my best result ranking that I had through the qualifying year, and it got me my spot [in the Olympics].”

Despite this being his first Games, with a handful of X Games and World Cup medals already under his belt, Sharpe knows he can compete with the top guys and has his sights set on landing on the podium in Beijing.

With China being one of Sharpe’s favourite places to compete, the stage is set for him to achieve his goal and vault himself into snowboard stardom—a challenge and opportunity that he is more than ready for so he can give back some of the inspiration that Whistler has instilled in him since he moved here more than a decade ago.

“I’m inspired by the local community in Whistler all the time, every time I ride the park and I see the Instagram edits and all that stuff. We’re one big community and it’s pretty cool, and I just appreciate the town of Whistler and all the people in it,” he said.

“So I think that’s a pretty cool opportunity, and I don’t take it as wanting to be a household name so I can be famous, I take it more like it would be really cool to be able to inspire kids and also inspire more people to be active and be themselves. All that would be really cool.”

 

This article is part of a series of profile stories highlighting athletes heading to the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, or those who hope to make it there. For others go to piquenewsmagazine.com.